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Antiquarian ballet books

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One of my summer highlights is a visit to an antiquarian book shop further south down the West coast of Sweden.

The shop specializes in ornithology - once I found a great big tome there at a very low price - "Birds of America" (Audubon).

Ballet books are usually scarce but this year I found two really good ones to add to my library.

"Ballet Russes" by Richard Shead, Wellfleet Press, N.J. 1989. A very beutiful volume with lots of rare illustrations. Covers the period (very briefly) from the early days right up to Diaghilev, also a bit about more recent revivals.

The other book - Alexandra, are you reading this? was titled

"Balletten danser ud", Gyldendal 1961. The ballet dances out in literal translation. It covers the late fifties and early sixties and it is actually a picture book with short text passages in Danish.

Alexandra, I know you have masses of photos of Kronstam, but if there is a particular one you are looking for, it might be here.

I could always scan it and send it to you.

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Thanks, Pamela, I have ballettens danser ud -- and not a single one of my Danish friends can give me a better than the literal translation, which makes no sense in English! One suggested that IF the book were about their US tour in 1965 THEN that may be what the title means.

Alas, I have more than 2000 photos of Kronstam, several of the ones that were in that book, but had to whittle them down to a mere 155 :) It may interest you to know that the ballerinas of Apollo have a particular loathing for one photo -- and you'll be able to tell which one by this story -- because they felt the photographer was crawling around, trying to shoot up their dresses. But there are some interesting photos in that book of several of the dancers.

When I first went to Copenhagen in the spring of 1990 I found dozens of wonderful used ballet books -- many English (Royal Ballet) and Ballets Russes ones, and they were usually quite inexpensive. Since then, though, the university added a dance history course and, I've been told, the students all scour the shops to build their own libraries, so the pickings are slim.

Glad you found some nice ones :)

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I have an incredible book from the ?50s. It is "Le Ballet". It is in French, with handcolored illustrations by Picasso, Miro, and other artists, as well as full of photos of ballerinas from the past. After I saw it in a shop in NYC some years ago for $900- without the handcolored illustrations- I wrapped it in acid free paper, and will only white gloves while handling it. Has anyone else seen this book?

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My daughter and son-in-law have several old books on ballet -- in their early 20's anything before 1970 is considered old to them. But their major collection is ballet pictures -- for the most part mass-produced paintings and prints of ballet that were popular in the 40's, 50's and early 60's. (You know the type that Lucy and Ricky had hanging in their apartment.) They have over 120 of these gracing the walls of their tiny apartment at last count. Its a fairly inexpensive hobby, and one that they and everyone who visits them enjoys. They have mirrors with dancers painted on them, several old paint-by-number pictures, large and small pictures, even some old magazine ads -- one for Camel cigarettes! . They have some really unique and fun pieces. I'm always on the lookout at flea markets and antique malls for something they don't have. Its a fun collection!

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In the city of Lisle, in northern France, every Sunday morning, in the courtyard of the Bourse, just across from the Opera House, there is an open-air market with several book sellers. Every time I've been there, there is a fabulous collection of French ballet magazines (from the 60s-90s), French and English books on ballet technique, biographies, etc. -- and the prices are very reasonable.

Have yet to find anything like it in England.


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Mel, your knowledge of French geography is quite amazing- I didn't even know before that there was a Lisle in France (in Loir-et-Cher, it seems), I only knew about Leconte de Lisle (the guy who created "La Marseillaise"). :)

But probably BilboBaggins meant "Lille"...

By the way, what are the BEF?

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The British Expeditionary Force - the British army in France at the time of the 1940 blitzkrieg. I wondered about Lille myself, but I discovered that there's not only the Lisle near Le Mans, but there's another one in Dordogne, not all that far from Bordeaux! Study enough military history, and you find out a lot about geography of all sorts of places!

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The Lille I had in mind (I've also seen it spelled Lisle, but then in France, Dunkirk is Dunquerque ...) is the largest city in Northern France and the 4th largest in all of France. It's about a 75 km drive (about 30-40 min) from either the ferry terminal at Calais or the Eurotunnel exit. Has a large North African/Morrocan population, so the Sunday market has great couscous; hot, sweet mint tea; home made harissa ... and the usual French garden produce to die for ...

It also has the largest bookshop in Europe (over a million volumes in stock, multiple languages) and a spectacular flower market, outside of Wazemann's ... you get the picture!!

The architecture is also wonderful. It was the gateway for the French occupation of Flanders in the 1670s (its military fortress, Le Citadel, still actively occupied by 2000 French marines, was the model for the Pentagon), so there is the mix of the Flemish style from the north and east, and the old French style from the south and west. Same for the cuisine ... it's one of the few places in France where beer is more commonly drunk with food than wine.

Finally, it has at least two of the best art collections outside of Paris. The Opera House is spectacular from the outside, but is under renovation (scaffolding everywhere), so I haven't seen the inside yet. Can't tell you anything about ballet there, but the indications from the AA (the British version of AAA) Guide is that there is a very active dance scene in Lille ...

Oh ... and there is EuroStar (train) service to there from London Waterloo, so you don't have to bother with a car if you choose not to ... but most people do, just to bring back all the goodies!!


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